Blog # 192       PORTRAIT OF AN “IDEAL” COMMUNITY

The consensus of selected historical references appears to record the community of “Dismal Vista” as having been founded in 1888 by a Ms. Elvira Swine. The good Ms. Swine (later recognized, by the denizens of that community, as a Saint) was sleepily perusing her King James, near the banks of the Chesapeake River, when she clearly heard a solemn, heavenly voice from on high, instruct her to close her book, rise and go 132,,5 miles west, to form a righteous community.

That community, named “Dismal Vista,” situated in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania was for years accessible only by means of an unpaved mule road. However, under the modern infrastructure initiative of President Donald Trump, was” bigly” improved and now is  a paved, two-way highway, popularly known as the Oblivion “Turnpike.”

The community, presently (according to the last census) is populated by some 1903 souls, each dedicated to living a “sanctified life,” by ts prohibition of alcoholic beverages, dancing to modern music, homosexuality, vaccination of the young and improper speech.

The Mayor, Lucinda G. Swine, purportedly, a distant descendant of the Sainted founder, does yeoman community service by simultaneously functioning as the Sunday School Teacher (thus relieving the traditionally overworked, Rev. Sleaerom the task), as the Official School Nurse and as well, the Vice- Chairperson of the Church Geranium Committee.

In the spirit of fairness, it should be said that the community does approve, and sponsor, certain social events, at which square dancing and the Texas two-step are permitted. At these approved events, non-alcoholic beverages and, freshly baked apple-rhubarb pies are sold (the money earmarked for the upkeep of the Church’s inventory of Bibles). It also does sponsor elder  supervised picnics and daily church field trips to nearby lakes and farmlands,

There appear to be no professional offices located in Dismal Vista. In the recent past, an idealistic young physician, seeking to serve the perceived need of a medical facility in a rural setting, quickly departed, after observing that vaccinations, sex education and the discussion of women’s health issues are forbidden based on community accepted religious precept.

A modest schoolhouse,located, meaningfully, opposite the Dismal Vista All- Faiths Church, consists of three rooms ( one of which serves as the school office) at which the young of the Dismal community is instructed in such subjects as penmanship, spelling, reading, arithmetic, and geography, but decidedly not on the subject of evolution, which is contrary to the Bible.

Holidays include all of the popular religious observance plus, President’s Day ( called “Trump Day” by the admiring community) and, as well, the date on which the community is traditionally believed to have been founded; which, by reason of its perceived significance, is recognized and celebrated as  New Year’s day.

Outsiders desiring to settle in the community are carefully scrutinized and painstakingly vetted by the community elders, and if found acceptable, will be considered for acceptance following the execution of a formal, binding Agreement, expressing their undertaking to abide by the rules and regulations, as well as the nuanced folkways of the community.It is to be noted that certain mandatory rules provide that no person from New York or California, nor any person born in a foreign country, may apply,

There are discernable media in the community with the exception of the free oral exchange of information every Monday and Friday evening 8: PM to 10:30PM at the General Store at which free coffee and unlimited pie are religiously available.

A few years ago, an enterprising member of the community attempted to enter into the local business of residential real estate but found, to his utter amazement, that there were no prospective people whatsoever, who appeared to be desirous of moving to Dismal Vista. He is now, however happily and successfully engaged in growing rhubarb, which, as everyone knows,  is always a welcome addition to apple pie.

-p.         

 

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Blog # 191                  THE BIG RECYCLE

The most ambitious and dramatically exciting analogy we can possibly hazard is that existing between the predictable rotation of our planet and the orbit of mankind’s eternal experience.

A 18th Century French complaint, uttered in the midst of several bloody revolutions, “plus ca change, plus la meme chose” (the more things change, the more they remain the same) had particular reference to the political history of the time, but is universally applicable, and is the specific theme of this note.

A knowledgeable observer of history would easily observe that identical issues and situational occurrences are repeated in each age, and with little variation. Unlike the comedic (but meaningful) film, “Groundhog Day,” the context and setting vary with the age, but the identical themes keep on recycling.

The classic works of literature are universally recognized, not only for their aesthetic rendition, but, as well, for their expression of the recurring themes of mankind’s experience, such as ambition, conflict, unrequited love, xenophobia, injustice, and idealistic aspiration. The brilliance of such writers as Shakespeare, Dickens, Austin, Thackeray, Twain, Faulkner, and Roth is that they present so artfully, the orbit of man’s life and common experience; Romeo and Juliet to West Side Story, Pygmalion to My Fair Lady and Anna Karenina to Vanity Fair are but a few of the plethora of illustrative examples.

Children’s stories and books also recount the experienced themes of humanity, Cinderella (the discovery of an exceptional individual in a crowd of ordinary people), Jack and the Bean Stalk (the danger inherent in the search for reward, as in Raiders of the Lost Ark) and many others which, while expressed in children’s language and illustration, depict man’s common aspirations as well as his vulnerability.

There are few wiser statements than, “If we forget history, we are doomed to repeat our mistakes.” Those who are conversant in the subject of ancient history, are best able to understand current events; the same conflicts occur, whether fought in Greek togas or U.S. Army fatigues, the diseases of lust for power and wealth, religious conflict, and xenophobia, are perpetual and are efficiently recycled.

A classic lesson is taught by an examination of the primitive worship of the Sun God by early man. The perceived dying of the Earth in winter (except for the evergreens) was reversed by ceremonial observances in celebration of those magically green trees so that the Earth was brought back to life, as evidenced by the consequent thaw, greenery, appearance of rabbits and the like. These antecedents of the popular holidays of Christmas and Easter are illustrative examples of universal recycling.

The next time someone may greet you with the common expression, “What’s new” and you respond, in the usual social jargon, “Same old, same old,” you are entitled, if desired, to entertain the notion that you speak for the entirety of the human experience.

Someday, homo sapiens may develop sufficient wisdom to better confront these universal issues, but for the present, they continue to persist in their recycled occurrence within the orbit of timeless human experience.

 

-p.

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BLOG # 190 ABOUT TIME

In this note, we are interested in experienced (empirical) time; not at all in the esoteric, Einsteinian concept, viz., time as a theoretical separate dimension. We are speaking of the time referred to in such expressions as, “It’s about time,” “we are short of time,” “time flies” (tempos fugit), “just passing time,” and “time out”; the time of our human experience.

Observing grains of sand gradually and steadily, descend from the upper hemisphere of an hourglass to the lower, we note that time is a faithful observant of the planet’s natural law of gravity. When the bottom half is full, denoting the passage of one hour, the dynamic is all but forgotten, except for its resultant evidence appearing in the lower sphere. What does that observed experience signify? What has actually changed, simultaneously, with the slow and steady voyage of the silica dioxide?

Many notable authors have written of time as a dream, or as a mental construct, signifying its unseen passage. In common with our observation of the lower half of the hourglass, we wonder at time’s essential function, in terms of the new situational experience, now that the hour has been spent. Does a successor hour begin immediately upon the fall of the final grain of sand? Did it begin just prior to the arrival of that final particle? The nature of time seems indeed seems to be as mysterious and intangible a concept as it is, ultimately, of harshly determinative significance.

As we age, the expression, “The days are long, but the years are short,” takes on ever–increasing personal significance. We have a clear awareness of the present, as compared with a dim (perhaps, erroneous) recollection of the past; consequently, the illusion of the latter as “short.” One surely cannot measure time by man’s longevity which varies from person to person. The popular expression, “just killing time” is simply thoughtless; we do not kill time, time kills us. Like measured sand in an hourglass, it is finite and final. The great many and variety of changes that occur in our lifetime, some gradual, some that  seem exponential, act as an effective diversion from monitoring our personal allotment of sand as it performs its law-abiding compliance with the planet’s jurisdictional rule governing gravity.

The word, “recollection” is both interesting and illustrative. It refers to thinking again about a past event or experience. Its etymology describes a Medieval Latin word, “recollectio,” meaning collect again. It clearly appears to be the case that much of our past is not collectible again by contemporary consciousness.

Whether or not, time is a separate dimension, as theorized by many physicists, we are all afloat in it for a relatively limited time, similar to the compliant sand in the hourglass.  We are duty- bound to give essential meaning to our valuable life experience during our gradual journey toward finite human maturity. We do so by not concentrating on time’s passage, but, rather, on the effective development of our personal growth, self- enhancement and pursuit of wisdom. True success, within the limited space of one’s lifetime, is not measured by the extent of one’s recollection of his life experiences, but instead, by the extent of temporal effort, devoted by him to exploiting, to his fullest capability, the singular potential for understanding and awareness, which was gifted to homo sapiens by evolution.                          –p.

 Blog # 189 VITAL SIGNS

Getting regular medical examinations is considered to be a salutary regimen, conducive to the maintenance of good health. Such examinations (“check-ups”) uniformly consist in the performance of a routine monitoring of what is famously known as our “vital signs” (heartbeat, blood pressure, temperature, and breathing). The results of such tests are objectively compared with their respective (empirically derived) standards and a medical determination is scientifically made.

Respecting those fortunate people whose results are adjudged normal, the event is quickly forgotten. For those respecting whom a problem is discerned, most are able to maturely adjust their lifestyle, as necessary and proceed with their life. Some others, unfortunately, seem to become so preoccupied with their health that they may, unnecessarily, delimit their life’s potential for personal growth and self-enhancement. This writing is solely applicable and relevant to the greater percentage of people who have not become pre-occupied with things such as personal health or some other preoccupying issue and are not hampered from freely engaging in spontaneous thought, rational or fanciful.

In the past, we have made particular reference to the rarely discussed subject of our intimate and completely private (lifelong), conversation with ourselves, in which we, in the privacy of our individual ruminative thoughts, dream of good prospects, grapple with real or imagined danger, perseverate over dilemmas, and as well in selective, seemingly meaningful fantasy.

In the context of this dark and private labyrinth of our inner thoughts, we may, at times, be inclined to erroneously construe factual or causal relationships between events which objectively are completely unrelated and thereafter groundlessly proceed to predict consequent outcomes and expectations.  In addition to being rooted in fantasy, such irrational expectations may cause us to take, or refrain from taking the necessary action resulting in some detriment to ourselves or a third party. While we are obliged to acknowledge the existence of this strange phenomenon, we do not in any way, approve of it. With great and abject apology, we have shamelessly pirated the title “vital signs,” from its proper application, {as used in the stated scientific procedure of making medical judgments by comparison of findings with fixed criteria} for this exotic dynamic. Albeit irrational, the perceived association of certain discreet stimuli can similarly,  but erroneously, function as the basis for consequent assumptions about reality.

Illustrative examples of such irrational predictors of future prospects (vital signs) are as follows [please take note that we have elected to include only positive signs]:

  • Randomly flipping a coin which fortuitously falls into a cup located far across the room,
  • Waking up from a night’s sleep, feeling very hungry,
  • Seeing an expansive rainbow following a drenching rain,
  • Unexpectedly finding an item which has long been missing,
  • Finding money in a new location,
  • Observing that today’s  breakfast coffee is stronger and more aromatic than usual,
  • Experiencing success in catching a train or bus at the very moment of its departure,
  • Preparing and serving fried eggs without breaking the yolks,
  • Receiving an invitation to dinner from an admired, but unknown neighbor,
  • Impulsively, but successfully, leaping over a large rain puddle,
  • Inhaling a scent reminiscent of a pleasant past experience, perhaps seashore or woodland.

It may be speculated that these perceptions of pleasant occurrences,  subjectively construed as vital signs of some future pleasant happening or successful enterprise, are, in essence, a product of one’s creative imagination, or that they represent a fragmentary recollection of one’s previous experience.  A similar dynamic and speculation would, of course, apply to signs which are perceived as negative.  Regarding the totality of these perceptions, however, it would be useful and preferable to summarily discount them, and rely as much as possible, on rational thought and empirical experience.

-p.

Blog # 188 COURTESY 1.01

It appears to have been relatively early in the course of primitive man’s steady march toward modern civilization, that he discovered the invaluable benefits of living in stable societies or tribes. Such benefits included joint defense and security, cooperative hunting and food gathering, skill specialization, interdependence and, above all, the life enhancing benefits of human company and social interaction. The latter, of course, necessitated a commonly understood language and the corollary requirement of socially approved behavior. Communities developed nuanced folkways, as was appropriate to their own culture, each embodying its signature style to the expression of amity and mutual respect.

Availing ourselves of the useful and always available literary time machine, we would leap a great many eons to the 1840’s, when human conversational interaction was immensely facilitated and enhanced by the invention of the telephone. The consensus is that it was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, whose first practical use, according to the apocryphal story, was the phoned message to his assistant, who was in another room, “Come here Watson, I want you.”

By reason of its ubiquitous utility, the telephone morphed, exponentially, from its 19th Century prototype to its developing progeny, from the telephone exchange (manual switchboard connection), to the coin operated  device, to the mobile phone (the latter, apparently, took decades to attain acceptability), to touch- tone phones, and in 1978, to the cell phone (Bell Labs., AT&T). The rest is current history, for good or bad (but this is another subject).

The limited, targeted subject of this note is a certain newly prevalent use of the telephone, which uses seems to negate or repudiate society’s former inherited tradition of considerate and thoughtful behavior as applicable to social interaction. This unfortunate trend seems to fall into two distinct, but related categories which will be referenced, below.

However, let us first create, solely for illustrative purposes, the following two theoretical situations. Suppose you are engaged in walking to the local grocery store to purchase some needed food items when a complete stranger suddenly accosts you, and without any apparent justification, requests your personal identity. In a second case, such a stranger, presumptuously, asks you for your answers to certain questions, whatever may be the subject, perhaps, marketing or politics. It would certainly appear that in both instances, the stranger would have taken unwelcome liberties, acted aggressively and did so without a modicum of sensitivity.

To return to the subject, one can easily transpose such improper behavior to that of those telephone callers who, without any identification or permission, request whether a named party is available, or else, more presumptuously, initiate a questionnaire on some subject. These are real instances and are even worse than the above theoretical illustrations, in that they are anonymous and the person on the receiving end lacks the ability to observe the questioner. Depending upon the condition of the receiving personality, the reaction to such arrogant rudeness may vary from mere annoyance to actual fear. It appears to be (disappointingly) necessary, to remind such abusive callers of the standards of behavior observed since the early days of man, concerning awareness and courtesy.

-p.

 

 

Blog # 187 IMPORTING CITIZENS

The DACA initiative (“Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals”) was a grant of compassionate, needed relief by our former President, Barack Obama, as chief executive, and, no doubt, as an empathetic and dedicated family man. It was done by way of Executive Order, based on the continuing, obstinate refusal of Congress to enact such legislation. DACA affected approximately, 800,000 immigrants brought to the United States by parents (“illegal immigrants”) without proper documentation. It changed the lives of countless beneficiaries of the Act, enabling them to qualify for financial aid for college tuition, secure decent employment, open bank accounts and, generally, afforded them the quality of being self-sufficient. The enunciated initiative of President Trump to eliminate DACA is a cruel behavioral travesty and manifestly contrary to our tradition of welcome, famously symbolized by our Statue of Liberty.

The numerous arguments in favor of the maintenance of the program are compelling and shared by American citizens with any personal sense of fairness and empathy. The affected children were bought into this country entirely as a matter of their parent’s choice, and in general, have proven themselves to be responsible Americans, capable of adding value to our country; they have been raised here and know no other home. They go to school, work, pay taxes and serve in the military.

We have been able to ascertain only one argument in support of the termination of the program (and by its drastic consequence, deportation). The same is devoid of human feeling and is as non-specific and so general as to amount to an irrelevant and useless aphorism. The reason is the bare assertion that laws must be enforced; it is the purpose of this writing to discredit such reductionist ignorance.

Laws are a system of rules, created and enforced by governmental institutions charged with the regulation of behavior.  Legal history has always categorized errant behavior into two distinct categories, malum prohibitum, and malum in se.  Acts that are malum in se, are those that by their very nature are evil, such as homicide or robbery; by clear contrast,  malum prohibitum, are acts which are unlawful solely by reason of Statute. No sane argument can be made that “illegal immigrants” are, as such, chargeable with the commission of acts which are intrinsically evil; their “illegality” merely amounts to entry into the country without the legislatively required paperwork.

Some decades ago, the truly eminent and intellectual Supreme Court Justice, Benjamin Cardozo, whose writings have been consequential guides to all rational legislation, advised that law (other than laws prohibiting evil) should properly change and evolve, sociologically, with their relevant era.  The law has, in fact, changed in accordance with each developing era and society’s evolving sense of justice and morality. Declaring invalid laws permitting the owning of slaves, and the denial of women’s right to vote, enter into a contract or own property, were among the many inarguably positive sociological and morally evolved adjustments to our previously enforceable legal system.

The 19th Century French novelist, Anatole France wryly stated, “It is suggested that the equality of the law forbids the rich and poor alike, to sleep under bridges, beg for food and steal loaves of bread.”  The nature of such satire seems applicable to the reductionist mindset of those who would cite an irrelevant aphorism (about general obedience to the  law) as justification for the tragic and unthinkable destruction of thousands of families;  a necessary result of the proposed elimination of DACA.

We are instructed that the Bible advises, let him who has broken no law, cast the first stone. It is a matter of official and public record that a many members of the present administration, including the President himself, are under investigation by the FBI, various Congressional Committees and a top independent investigator, for offenses which, if proven, would qualify as very serious crimes including,  treason, fraud, perjury, bribe taking, conflict of interest, misuse of government facilities, interference with the prosecutorial process, election tampering and perhaps, other immoral and illegal acts yet to be uncovered. It is a colossally shameful hypocrisy for this administration to casually cite the general obligation to obey the law, as its sole justification for the tragic destruction of so many lives for the offense of lacking required paperwork; solutions to such problems, if needed, can conceivably be legislated.

On the positive side, let us by all means not overlook the added value of countless intellectual and material benefits, historically added to our nation, from foreign aspirants to the American way of life.

-p.

 

Blog # 186   A FEW WELL CHOSEN WORDS

There can be a notably significant variation in the substance and context of a statement communicated by means of face-to-face conversation, as contrasted with the identical statement, expressed in writing. Each medium has its own signature strengths and drawbacks. The awareness of this phenomenon could prove vital to the accurate transmission of the message and, in consequence, the avoidance of misunderstanding or misperception. It might seem useful to weigh in on the subject.

Many of us, as children, played a game called “telephone.” This game involved the whispering of an original message, for example, “Hi Sandy,” which was confidentially passed on in turn to a number of players, to be recited by the final player, who, invariably announced something else, such as “buy candy.” On the positive side, verbal communication has many communicative advantages such as choice of time and place, selective volume and tone, facial expression and even body language.

However, its spontaneity and the possibility of impulsive expression may result in a less than optimum choice of words and, in consequence, a distortion of intended meaning.  It is also vulnerable to the dynamics of subjective perception and, as well, possible distortion in future repetition (as in the telephone game). Finally, spontaneous oral communication runs the risk of an unintended revelation of withheld sentiment.

The, far less utilized, medium of writing has great utility in accurately conveying the author’s intended thoughts. It affords to the writer ample time for the considered and precise selection of vocabulary thought best suited to the precise expression of his intended thought. It also serves as an enduring record of the writer’s authentic expression and for such reason, is less vulnerable to any valid misunderstanding.

It may be useful, accordingly, to express our understood standard for success in the use of effective and accurate written communication.

One, far too often, hears expressions such as “big” or “simple” words, in a description, or critique of a particular writing. These adjectives may only serve the purpose of being revelatory of readers who do not trouble to write with an adequate level of sensitive awareness. A positive benefit of the written form of communication is the availability of sufficient time to select specific words which, in the writer’s judgment, best convey his intended message. Every word, one observes, has its individually nuanced meaning, context, tone and degree of subtlety. With abject apologies to M. Roget, we believe that a skilled writer knows that there are very rarely, alternative words or “synonyms,” which would suffice for the expression of his exact intent. No two words, we believe, are truly identical in meaning and context. As an illustration, the word “torrid” is not an alternate choice for the word “hot”; one would never describe the temperature of bath water as “torrid,” but might properly decide to apply that adjective to an exotic flamenco dancer.

There is thus no utility in the application of descriptive adjectives such as,” big”, “hard”, “easy” or “simple” to words in a careful writing. Only those specific words, which, to the author, are considered best in the expression of his intended meaning and context (whether they are called “ten dollar” or” ten cent” words) would be selectively employed. When such sensitive and appropriate care is duly exercised in the consideration and selection of vocabulary, any responsibility for misunderstanding should, in fairness, be borne by the reader.

-p.